How Do You Thank a Teacher? Start at the Polls.

How Do You Thank a Teacher? Start at the Polls.

Catherine Schumacher, President & CEO of Public Education Partners

With everything that teachers have had to endure over the past six months, we should all take time to thank them. Educators, the Greenville County Schools administration, and a wide range of individuals and organizations are working day in and day out to improve educational outcomes for Greenville’s children while also prioritizing everyone’s safety.

Gratitude is powerful. As Brené Brown’s hundreds of thousands of followers will attest, cultivating a sense of gratitude can actually rewire your brain so that you are more capable of navigating the toxic stress of our 21st Century lives. Or, more to the point, the toxic stress of 2020.

Back in March, I was invited to share my thoughts on how the pandemic was impacting public schools, especially here in Greenville County, where since 1985 Public Education Partners (PEP) has led collective efforts to improve student achievement. Gratitude was the central theme. I closed that article with three pleas: Be well. Stay safe. Thank a teacher.

Six months later, those words still apply. If anything, they are more relevant. Millions of our fellow citizens have gotten sick, hundreds of thousands have died, and the long-term health and economic repercussions remain hard to predict. Tens of thousands of Upstate public school students, teachers, and families are navigating a complex mix of learning options — none of which is perfect for everyone, and all of which require significant sacrifice and patience. Sadly, those traits seem in short supply right now.

In light of all of this, teachers have embodied the resiliency and creativity that they strive to model for their students. The much-needed summer break was consumed by online trainings, lesson plan adaptations, and building virtual teaching studios in living rooms and kitchens. Since August, classrooms have become production centers for online learning sessions, and carefully designed spaces where children can come together in-person to safely learn with their peers.

In all of this, teachers’ responsibilities have continued to grow. They respond to emails in the middle of the night, talk caregivers and students through using new technologies, and worry about the children who aren’t transitioning well. They do all of this while exposing themselves to a virus that we still don’t know everything about, trusting that their principals and administrators have their backs and are doing everything possible to keep both them and their students safe.

At PEP, we are committed to elevating the voices of teachers whenever possible. They are the experts, just as scientists are the experts when it comes to issues of Covid-19. But they are also human. They are our parents, our friends, our partners. Parishioners in our churches or neighbors down the street. Greenville County Schools alone employees 6,000 teachers — a significant workforce that is woefully and systematically underpaid, and whose voices are not listened to enough by the elected officials that continue to kick the can of education and funding reform down the road.

We know that the road to economic recovery may be long, but I hope that we will agree that the overwhelming burden cannot be carried on the backs of our public education system alone. In the wake of the Great Recession, K-12 education funding was cut by 20%. It took 12 years to return to pre-recession levels – just in time to welcome a global pandemic.

Early next year, our General Assembly will convene in Columbia for its next two-year session. It is impossible to predict where we will be by then, but it is clear that to lay the groundwork for a lasting recovery, we must prioritize investing all the resources we can muster in our teachers and public schools. South Carolina was already facing a teacher recruitment and retention crisis of unprecedented proportions, which this pandemic will undoubtedly exacerbate. We need data-centered strategies and strong leadership.

Advocates for public education must be ready to make their voices heard. You can start by learning which candidates fighting for your vote on November 3rd are true champions for public education. Critically, get to know the candidates for your local school board election. In Greenville, six of the 12 school board seats are on the ballot this year, and PEP has a School Board Questionnaire to help you learn more about the candidates. We also encourage you to sign-up for our Action Alerts, which will keep you informed on critical education issues and make action easy.

I’m so grateful for the teachers that my two boys have every year, but especially this year. So in their honor: Be well. Stay safe. Thank a teacher. And you can start with your choices at the polls.

Catherine Schumacher

President & CEO

Public Education Partners

Public Education Partners (PEP), founded in 1985, leads our community in acting collectively to support, strengthen, and advance public education and student achievement in Greenville County Schools. To that end, its work focuses on Elevating Teachers, Empowering Advocates, and Engaging Communities.

Greenwood Counts: Measuring What Matters

Greenwood Counts: Measuring What Matters

Zeb Gantt, Community Research & Data Specialist

United Way of Greenwood & Abbeville Counties, in collaboration with local, state and national partners, is pleased to announce the successful launch of a new data platform. Greenwood Counts ( provides access to population health data, demographics, evidence-based practices, and information on vital resources and activities. The platform provides governments, health departments, hospitals, educational institutions, community-based organizations and human service providers with the resources needed to facilitate regional and community improvement activities and strengthen collaborations, both locally and regionally.

Using Greenwood Counts, individuals and organizations can view over 140 health and quality of life data indicators; map and visualize data, and generate tailored data reports; examine zip-code level maps of socio-economic needs; browse through a database of over 2,000 evidence based practices and programs; access zip code specific pages with local data, priorities, improvement activities, and resources; track progress towards county and regional goals and use tools for creating a community health needs assessment.

“Our vision for Greenwood Counts was to provide Greenwood County with a vital resource to support community improvement work in the region. We are eager to make the site scalable and replicable for other surrounding counties in the future, as this would enable the region to come together collectively to formulate shared goals. This new platform will engage diverse stakeholders, help pinpoint at-risk populations and areas of need, promote the implementation of programs proven to affect change, and provide tools to track and report on results at the zip code, county, and regional levels,” says Zeb Gantt, Community Research & Data Specialist, United Way of Greenwood & Abbeville Counties.

Having successfully launched, Greenwood Counts is now transitioning into building a community consortium. “The Greenwood Counts Community Consortium is being developed with one goal in mind, bringing representatives from across multiple sectors to advocate and advance system changes for a safer, healthier and happier community. The Consortium will drive conversations on how Greenwood plans and coordinates services and will serve as advisors for governments and community leaders,” says Marisel Losa, President & CEO, United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville Counties.

The Consortium will address our community’s greatest needs utilizing the resources of Greenwood Counts. The platform will serve as the data backbone for decision making through its easy-to-use navigation tools for supporting community improvement work. It will enable the Consortium to understand Greenwood’s greatest needs and track the progress towards remedying those needs overtime.

For more information on Greenwood Counts and the Greenwood Counts Community Consortium, please visit:

TATT Chat, October 8th, 2020

TATT Chat, October 8th, 2020

Kyra Lobbins, Deputy Chief of Staff, Clemson University

Welcome Terence Roberts, TATT Chairman


Guest Presentation Kyra Lobbins, Deputy Chief of Staff, Clemson University

You can watch a recording of the meeting here.

6,800 students living on campus in the third week of classes

Masks are required on campus and in the city of Clemson

COVID testing percent positive is well below the state average

Clemson tested all students initially, now just on campus

Wastewater is being used to target testing; can pinpoint down to a floor in a dormitory

350 of 629 isolation beds being used; extending to 750 beds

207 students are isolating independently

Marketing research has showed that Clemson should thrive post-pandemic

All finals will be held online

When vaccine becomes available it will be provided to students


TATT Updates Dean Hybl, TATT Executive Director

Creating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event on November 18

  • Register and nominate your Unsung Hero here.

Other events coming up

  • Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem Workshop
  • Sneak Pique
  • Upstate Professional Planners Workshop
  • Air Quality Group
  • Creating a Safer Upstate Discovery Committee Meeting


Cherokee (Frannie Stockwell, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce)
Businesses are getting back up and running slowly with some new openings and some closings

Elementary schools are back in person five days a week

The city passed a mask ordinance for employees and customers yesterday

The Chamber is hosting an in-person job fair on October 19

New Cherokee County vision 20/37 “A Clear Vision”


Pickens (Katie Mann, Hagood Mill)

Hagood Found took over day to day operations from Pickens County last year

Many events cancelled but many things still happening including grist mill 175 year celebration, Rural LISC digital inclusion grant to rural communities for local rural communities to provide funding support for those who cannot afford computers or internet

State sanctioned fiddling competition this month and next month is Native American Heritage Month celebration


Spartanburg (Doug Stephenson, SC Works Greater Upstate

One stop operator for SC Work Centers offering support to employers

Closed five centers mid-March due to COVID, started service by phone, virtually, email, etc.

Developed PPP and safety protocol with many donations from counties and local organizations

Centers reopened to people needing unemployment compensation

Several virtual job fairs have been held over the past months with one upcoming in Spartanburg

Greenville: 2325 in-person customers, Union 692, Cherokee: 1862; Spartanburg 4844


Union (Jami Trammell, Union County Chamber of Commerce)

New businesses have started with more in the pipeline

Have cancelled several events but still planning on Christmas parade

Hosting a drive-in movie

More new chamber members than ever before

The Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy with Troy Hanna

The Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy with Troy Hanna

Troy Hanna, President & CEO of Spartanburg County Foundation

Construction is complete for the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy, the first center for philanthropy in the state of South Carolina.

The Center is a state-of-the-art hub for people to gather, analyze data, and share ideas for solutions to Spartanburg’s critical indicators. It will be a place where donors, nonprofits, and community groups meet and collaborate. It will also offer access to research and innovative tools for building the organizational capacity of Spartanburg nonprofits.

It was just over a year ago that The Spartanburg County Foundation hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for The Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy. Over 150 community members and distinguished guests attended this landmark event.

“Our groundbreaking ceremony represented more than just breaking ground on the Center for Philanthropy,” said Mary Thomas, Chief Operating Officer. “We broke ground on the future of philanthropy in South Carolina and introduced a first-of-its-kind facility that will generate change not only in Spartanburg County but also throughout the state.”

The Center allows The Spartanburg County Foundation, its partners, nonprofits, and community leaders to move the needle on critical issues facing Spartanburg in an innovative, collaborative space designed to spark ideas and facilitate action around data-driven solutions to address the challenges that we all care about as a community. The Center will allow the Foundation to enhance the donor experience and proactively connect them to its program of work.

The Center meets the need for a flexible meeting and convening space in Spartanburg for nonprofits, other funders, and a multitude of organizations whose mission is to improve the lives of people in our county. “The Center for Philanthropy is all about Spartanburg and how we build a legacy and community here,” Thomas said. “We want people to naturally gather in the Center.”

Nonprofits will benefit from the Resource Media Room, an innovative learning space that will offer access to research and tools to strengthen an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission over time. The building will incorporate interactive technology, especially in the Gallery of Philanthropy, where stories of giving back will be featured in one of the many planned exhibits.

“The critical work that will be seen in the Center is already happening today,” said Troy Hanna, President and CEO. “This Center is not about a building, but the people who embody that work every day to shape our community’s future.”

Though the physical doors of the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy have not yet been opened to the community, the Center is already making a difference in the Spartanburg community. Through the Center for Philanthropy brick paver campaign, people can support disaster relief, including crucial COVID-19 assistance in Spartanburg County. Personalized, commemorative bricks are available to anyone interested in supporting The Spartanburg County Disaster Relief Fund and leaving a lasting, permanent mark on The Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy.

“Through these brick pavers, the Center for Philanthropy is already able to connect to the community and support Spartanburg County through disaster relief,” said Troy Hanna, President and CEO of The Spartanburg County Foundation.

Learn more about the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy and brick pavers on the Foundation’s website at

Greenville Chamber Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit with Dr. Nika White

Greenville Chamber Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit with Dr. Nika White

Dr. Nika White, Founder of Nika White Consulting, Senior Advisor to Greenville Chamber of Commerce Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

The Greenville Chamber has a strong and long-lasting legacy of championing initiatives across the Greenville region to foster economic parity and community prosperity for all citizens. The Chamber has long-held the belief that such initiatives are not only the right thing to do, but that there is a business-case as well. Countless studies have found that diversity and inclusion leads to better business performance, better team collaboration and can even lead to better financial returns. The Greenville Chamber has several upcoming opportunities to engage in this meaningful work.

One new initiative created by the Greenville Chamber, in partnership with United Way of Greenville County and Urban League of the Upstate, to foster such growth in Greenville County is the Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility (REEM) Commission. The Commission grew from ongoing community conversations to identify and address systemic racial barriers in Greenville County. The group will work collaboratively with other community partners to develop systems-level, meaningful solutions.

The Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) program is designed to strengthen and expand the regional minority entrepreneurial community. To accomplish this, MBA utilizes a two-pronged strategy: improving the readiness of local minority-business enterprises to serve as effective engines for economic development, and engaging the corporate community to more effectively utilize these firms through local supplier diversity efforts. Both actions are essential for improving the overall economic base in the Upstate. MBA participants undergo a rigorous yearlong business development program where they receive specialized training from business coaches, access to mentors, and access to large corporations for partnership opportunities. Recruitment for the 2021 MBA Cohort is currently underway. Learn more and apply at

The Chamber will also host the 4th Annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit on October 20th. The critical work of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion starts within – not only within our organizations – but within ourselves as individuals. With a theme of “Amplify the I,” this year’s Summit will feature renowned speakers from across the nation teaching strategies to focus on the internal aspects of DEI work so that we may achieve a greater and more positive impact. For the first time, this event will be held virtually, allowing greater access across the region. To learn more and register, visit

An Update on ReWa’s DIG Greenville, One of Our Largest and Most Critical Infrastructure Projects with Chad Lawson

An Update on ReWa’s DIG Greenville, One of Our Largest and Most Critical Infrastructure Projects with Chad Lawson

Chad Lawson, Director of Communications at Renewable Water Resources

Clean water and a thriving natural environment are two of the primary hallmarks of any successful community. Ensuring that these needs are not compromised during periods of rapid growth requires not just vision and discipline but careful, coordinated planning and precise execution.

All of us at ReWa understand that we play a critical role as both an environmental steward and a driver of economic development and growth. One of ReWa’s and, in fact, Greenville’s most ambitious and significant infrastructure projects, DIG Greenville, is an excellent example of how strategic planning and innovation meet to deliver great results.

As part of its ongoing efforts to employ cutting-edge technology to keep Greenville poised for what comes next, ReWa began construction on this multi-year wastewater conveyance tunnel project in 2018. This project aims to safely and efficiently revitalize our wastewater infrastructure in the growing Greenville community for the next 100 years.

Administered by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s State Revolving Fund Section and partially funded through the United States Environmental Protection Agency, DIG Greenville will alleviate the risk of overflows in Greenville’s wastewater collection system during peak events. It will also provide additional storage and capacity during wet weather to ensure future projected capacity needs. Evidenced by the numerous cranes and construction you see in Greenville, we are growing at an unprecedented pace. Without this critical project, capacity, or the availability in the pipes to add additional wastewater flows, would be minimal, limiting growth opportunities in our community.

As part of our stewardship efforts, we sought a solution for growing capacity needs that would minimize disruption to the area and its residents and provide the best long-term solution, so the idea for the tunnel was born. With digging recently completed , DIG Greenville’s tunnel is approximately 11 feet in diameter and nearly 6,000 feet long and will house a 7-foot diameter fiberglass reinforced carrier pipe. Wastewater will enter the diversion structure and drop shaft at Riley Street (near the Kroc Center) and flow underground to the downstream ending in Cleveland Park, where the new tunnel will connect with the existing system.

As the excavation phase concludes, work will shift to installing and connecting the pipe inside the tunnel, followed by restoring and landscaping both tunnel construction sites. The project is on track to be completed in May of 2021.

Here are some key statistics on ReWa, the project, and its impact:

  • Each day ReWa cleans and returns more than 40 million gallons of water to area waterways.
  • We operate nine water resource recovery facilities (WRRF) and more than 352 miles of pipe, and are responsible for wastewater treatment and collection services for a broad geographic area, including Greenville County and portions of Anderson, Laurens, Pickens, and Spartanburg Counties.
  • ReWa has worked closely with various governmental and economic development entities on this project, even partnering with the Greenville Zoo to ensure the safety and well-being of any animals who might have been impacted by early blasting.
  • In the spirit of complete transparency, we have distributed numerous updates and bulletins to area residents regarding the DIG project and hosted 14 “Sippin’ with Steve” public events to inform and update the public at every step of the process.
  • The massive tunnel boring machine (TBM) used to dig under the city journeyed from Cleveland Park and will surface at the prepared site on Westfield Street near the Kroc Center. On its way, this huge and incredibly powerful machine bored through solid granite and crossed underneath the Reedy River twice.
  • The tunnel boring machine began mining under the city in January 2020 and completed its work within the last few weeks.
  • The total tunnel footage is 5,928 feet with a maximum depth of 120 feet, and the machine has operated at a production rate – 6.6 feet/hour (31.2 feet/day) and excavated more than 20,000 cubic yards of rock, which ReWa will use on future construction projects.
  • The project is expected to be completed on-budget with no cost overruns.

While it’s not typically considered glamorous, having the necessary supporting infrastructure in place is the most critical factor in our area’s ability to support its incredible rate of growth. DIG Greenville has been embraced and celebrated by community groups, environmental organizations, economic development agencies, and government leaders alike and is evidence of ReWa’s commitment to meeting the needs of our community head-on and envisioning and driving a better for future us all. Simply put, we live here, too, and we will always do what is in the best interest of Greenville and the Upstate.

We look forward to sharing more exciting news on DIG Greenville soon. Please visit for updates and additional information.